What can I do with a degree in Chemical and Process Engineering?

Chemical and Process Engineering_student and lab

Chemical and process engineers transform bulk raw materials into processed, marketable products by chemical, physical or biological means. They take the experiments that a scientist performs in the laboratory and operate them on a commercial scale taking into account economics, safety and sustainability. Some may also be involved in the research and development of new products and processes, such as those in nanotechnology, biotechnology or advanced materials.

The profession combines chemistry and engineering concepts to help solve problems related to the pollution of our environment, meeting demands for energy and food, and creating new materials.

Chemical and process engineers design, operate and optimise processes for adding value to raw materials. They work in areas such as oil and gas, renewable energy, biofuel production, environmental control, fermentation, waste treatment, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

Through their Chemical and Process Engineering degree graduates develop a large amount of technical knowledge about the processing of chemicals and other materials. They also gain a valuable set of transferable skills that includes:

  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Logical and quantitative thinking
  • Commercial and economic awareness
  • Application of engineering technology and science
  • Knowledge of chemical composition and processes
  • Measuring and evaluating systems and processes
  • Written and verbal communication.

Applied learning is an important part of your degree, through work placements, consulting projects and fieldtrips. These experiences can deepen your skillset, awareness of others, working knowledge and employability.

Chemical and Process Engineers are found in organisations that make products or process materials, ranging from aluminium to waste.

Recent UC graduates have found roles in sectors and with employers such as:

Professional, scientific, and technical consulting:

eg, Beca, Harrison Grierson, Aurecon, Worley Parsons, Safety Solutions, Earth Systems, IVS Labs, Technix, Callaghan Innovation, Thermo Fisher Scientific, CRL Energy, Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants, Plant and Platform Consultants

Food, beverage, pharmaceutical and packaging:

eg, Goodman Fielder, Fonterra, Harrington’s Breweries, Westland Milk Products, Wineworks, Heinz Watties, Tetra Pak, Comvita

Heavy industry

eg, Alcoa, Pacific Aluminium, Dow, NZ Aluminium Smelters, Golden Bay Cement, NZ Steel

Electricity, gas, water and waste services

eg, Christchurch City Council, Transpower, Origin Energy, Powerco, Water Corporation, Watercare Services Limited, Ecolabs, Linde BOC

Energy and mining

eg, Todd Energy, OceanaGold, Shell Todd Oil Services, Orica Mining and Chemicals, Methanex, Renewable Energy Corporation, Petronas, Woodside Energy, Lightsource Renewable Energy, Petra Resources

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery

eg, Carter Holt Harvey, Forest Research Institute Malaysia, Ravensdown, Norske Skog Tasman, Oji Fibre solutions, Ballance Agri-Nutrients, Scion

Construction and infrastructure

eg, Babbage Consultants, Rationale, Marley Pipelines, Mott MacDonald, Metrix, Thysennkrupp Industrial Solutions.

Chemical and Process Engineering graduates are employed in a wide variety of jobs — see some examples below.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.

Chemical and process engineer

  • Researches and develops factory processes
  • Examines the effects on the environment
  • Prepares and presents reports

Process control / improvement engineer

  • Evaluates and optimises equipment performance
  • Monitors materials, processes and surroundings for problems
  • Documents and records information

Field engineer / officer

  • Installs and maintains products and equipment
  • Ensures safety of equipment
  • Coordinates the workloads of staff

Research engineer

  • Tests materials, products and processes
  • Writes and presents findings and reports
  • Advises and consults with others

Pharmaceutical engineer

  • Designs and produces pharmaceutical products
  • Conducts pharmaceutical research
  • Assesses the quality assurance of processing

Food engineer

  • Develops techniques for processing, packaging and preserving food or beverage products
  • Designs manufacturing equipment
  • Researches and creates new food or beverages

Project engineer, project manager

  • Manages a project plan, budget and schedule
  • Supervises a project’s daily progress
  • Liaises with project staff and clients

Energy and environmental engineer / consultant

  • Tests environmental samples for pollution
  • Minimises the environmental impact of projects
  • Identifies solutions and designs systems/ machinery to meet energy-saving targets

Drilling engineer, well services engineer

  • Monitors well operations and rig sites
  • Develops drilling plans and programmes
  • Adheres to environmental protection standards

Materials engineer

  • Determines the quality of materials
  • Develops methods for material production
  • Considers environmental and economic impacts of material production

Quality assurance technologist, quality analyst

  • Ensures products and processes meet standards
  • Develops company quality policies/procedures
  • Reduces waste and increases efficiency

Application engineer / scientist

  • Understands customer needs
  • Participates in product development life cycle
  • Provides applications support eg, training

Secondary school teacher

  • Inspires the next generation in maths, physics and chemistry and their real-world applications

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea to form their own business
  • Gets involved in a start-up

Get started with Entrepreneurship here

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies or organisations relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network with others.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep up-to-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Chemical and Process Engineering subject page